Martial Arts Rankings

A recent post by Slideyfoot got me thinking about this perennial topic. Upon reflection I’ve found that my position hasn’t changed – belts don’t mean anything in the objective sense.

That isn’t to say that belt rankings serve no purpose – much like training in general, they can serve a variety of purposes that have nothing to do with fighting. But the only real use of a belt is to hold your pants up. Training will tell you if you can perform or not; the mat (or the ring the or octagon or teh de@dly streetz or the range or whatever) is a great place to find out what you can and can’t do. I point everyone again to Matt Thornton’s aliveness concept.

I have seldom found a formal martial arts ranking system that reliably tells me what high rank holders are capable of, which you would think is the entire reason for a ranking system. The fellows over at Bullshido are always good for some perspective on performance vs. rank – they’re a bit of a wild bunch but always entertaining.

Oh, and I am in no way trying to denigrate the time and effort that goes into achieving high rank in any martial art. But I don’t see that high rank= fighting ability automatically, and I’m one of the the-point-of-martial-arts-is-to-learn-to-fight guys. YMMV. This is probably why I am a paid member of the International Hoplology Society.


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